New doctor Vermeesch feels right at home in Clay County

 

By KEVIN DONALDSON

CELINA-Practicing medicine in Clay County is a lot like her first job, and also a lot like home to physician Marilyn Vermeesch.

Dr. Vermeesch says her new job at Copeland Medical Services “reminds me a lot of my first job,” and the people here “are a whole lot like the people I grew up with. Being here reminds me of home.”

Home was rural Michigan, where she was a self-described “farm girl,” always working and doing chores with her sisters. “There were no boys in the family, and we were always working,” she said. 

Her father died at age 42 of cancer, forcing her mother to sell the farm, and prompting Vermeesch into the medical field. 

“I decided I wanted to do something to cure cancer,” she said.  Included in that decision was three years of cancer research at Dow Chemical. 

The work ethic developed on the family farm was a key component in getting her medical degree. There was never a doubt about going to medical school, Vermeesch said, but there was a big obstacle: “How am I going to pay for it?”

She had always worked, and she worked her way through school, logging 25 hours of work each week during her undergraduate time, and continuing to work 10 hours a week for a while even in medical school. 

She graduated from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit in 1993, and completed a combined residency in internal medicine and pediatrics in Phoenix. 

From there, she went to southern Utah for five years in a very rural area similar in size to Clay County. The nearest larger town (and Wal-Mart) was St. George, 75 miles away. 

“I was the only internist and pediatrician in town,” Vermeesch said. “I stayed very busy, needless to say.

“I went from big city Phoenix to a small town, and was flung into doing a lot of things I wasn’t trained to do,” she said. 

She worked in a 10-bed hospital, and the main clientele was tourists, “mostly trauma victims,” she said.

The small town was centrally located between the northern rim of the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, and Lake Powell, attracting a large number of outdoor enthusiasts who sometimes overextended themselves, Vermeesch said. 

After five years of extensive emergency room work, coupled with the large practice as internist/pediatrician, “I was so burned out,” she said, prompting a move to the Volunteer State. 

During her time in Utah she also served as a preceptor and mentor to University of Utah medical students, and received two big honors–one as the top rural medicine preceptor in the state, and then as the top rural physician in the state. 

Vermeesch was a hospitalist, a physician who specializes in inpatient medicine, in Cookeville for the past several years. She eventually became the director of that group at Cookeville Regional Medical Center, and later added duties as the director of the rehabilitation program and employee health at CRMC. 

She also practiced urgent care medicine at Satellite Med in Cookeville before joining Copeland Medical Services earlier this spring. 

Vermeesch and her husband have lived in Gainesboro the past seven years.

Dr. Lee Copeland welcomed Dr. Vermeesch to the medical team at his office and Cumberland River Hospital.

“We are very pleased to have a physician of Dr. Vermeesch’s abilities and background at Copeland Medical and at the hospital,” Copeland said. “She is superbly qualified, and will help us expand our service to patients and and reduce their waiting time. We welcome her to Celina.”